Rugby: 'Great introduction' for All Blacks newbies ahead of potential Tonga test debuts

The All Blacks' newest faces have been given a pass mark by forwards coach John Plumtree, as the team build towards their first test of the year against Tonga on Saturday.

As part of a 36-man squad for the upcoming test against Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium, and two tests against Fiji in Dunedin and Hamilton, coach Ian Foster has welcomed the quartet of prop Ethan de Groot, loose forward Ethan Blackadder, halfback Finlay Christie and midfielder Quinn Tupaea.

Crusaders prop George Bower is also in the squad as an uncapped player, however he was part of the All Blacks' touring squad for last year's Rugby Championship.

And with some regular names out of contention for the start of the 2021 season, it's more than likely that one or more debutant will be in the All Blacks' ranks come kick-off on Saturday.

Speaking on Tuesday, Plumtree says that the new players have already found their feet in the All Blacks' camp.

"They've settled in really well," he says.

"We had a great camp in South Auckland last week, with the Pasifika community, it was really special actually.

"It was a great introduction for those guys that are new, and the guys that have come back.

"We got off to a really good start, now of course we're looking forward to a test week this week, so the excitement's cranked up a little bit.

"You can see, everyone wants to play the first test of the year. It's pretty exciting times."

But even with the likes of captain Sam Cane, centres Jack Goodhue and Anton Lienert-Brown and winger Caleb Clarke unavailable, Plumtree adds that the team have had the perfect opportunity to return to square one.

"We've sort of started with a bit of a blank page. All the [learning] started from day one.

"Everything that we've done's been revisited, everyone feels pretty new actually. That's what's exciting about it.

"Obviously we've got some seasoned campaigners in there that have been there, done that. But that's mixed up with some new guys, [and] new guys back that adds that different flavour as well.

"Everyone's been working really hard to get ready for this test match this week."

With three test matches in three weeks, Plumtree hints that there could be rotation from the All Blacks' side to face Fiji next week.

"Everyone's got an opportunity at the weekend - next week's team might be a little bit different. 

"We'll make sure we give everyone a bit of time. How much time that will be, I don't know.

"We'll just build closer to that Australian series. Right now, we've just got to pick the team, and see how that goes in the weekend and adjust it slightly maybe for next week."

Join Newshub for live updates of the All Blacks v Tonga from 7pm Saturday.